In Brief

Nearly four years after 9/11--and a month and a half after London's July 7 bombings--former Irish President Mary Robinson challenged psychologists at APA's 2005 Annual Convention to enter an interdisciplinary dialogue to protect and improve human rights in the United States and abroad.

"As I look at the situation over the past four years, I fear that human rights are under threat from many sides--from the terrorists who seek to cause maximum damage to life and freedom, but also from governments in how they have responded to these threats," said Robinson, who has also served as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Robinson said confronting the state of human rights from within the United States presents problems, given, for example, the public's lack of knowledge of international standards--such as the 1948 U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which established worldwide inalienable rights.

However, since psychologists often work with people whose human rights have been infringed upon--such as people suffering from trauma and abuse--Robinson said that psychologists can offer insight into how society can meet people's basic human needs, such as self-esteem and respect from others.

Robinson also asserted that protecting human rights is the most effective way to protect against terror.

"We must do everything possible to maintain the integrity of international human rights and humanitarian law norms in the light of heightened security tensions," she said.

Robinson urged psychologists to work within and outside their communities to help people rise from the "miserable circumstances" in which they live--both in the United States and abroad.

"The United States has one of the highest rates of poverty and hunger among children, and child mortality, of any industrialized country," she says. "Over 40 million Americans don't have access to basic health care. And the wages of average workers have not increased in real terms for many years, while the earnings and assets of [the] most affluent citizens grow at record levels."

Upholding human rights, Robinson asserted, entails more than shielding people from violence and political despots. It also includes preventing hunger, homelessness and disease, she said.